Call 413.540.1234 to
schedule an appointment
CONCERN/EAP: 413.534.2625
Billing questions? Call: 413.540.1212
CRISIS: 413.733.6661

Health Policy & Advocacy
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
New Research Debunks Two Medical Marijuana MythsTake Early Clinical Trials With a Grain of SaltCould Hackers Target Heart Devices?Protecting Your Electronic Health RecordsAfter Another Shooting Tragedy, 'Stop the Bleed' Kits Urged for SchoolsPatients Want Physicians to Have Greater ConnectivityYour Tax Dollars Fund Research on Hundreds of New MedsFour Best Practices Outlined to Prevent Health Care CyberattacksMany Patients Know Too Little About Their MRI, CT Scans: StudyUnsafe Water Found in Faucets Across the U.S.Health Tip: Prevent Exposure to LeadHealth Tip: Online Pharmacies You Should AvoidDon't Count on an American to Do CPRPoll: Personal Beliefs Shouldn't Allow Doctors to Refuse to TreatFDA Says U.S. Will Now Produce Critical MRI ComponentPicking a New Primary Care DoctorUber, Lyft Rides May Not Help Boost Doc Visits for Poorer Patients2018 Immunization Schedule Issued for U.S. ChildrenA Hidden Source of 'Superbugs' in Hospitals?2018 Immunization Schedule Issued for U.S. AdultsTop Three Challenges Identified for Pharmacists in 2018Responding to Opioid Crisis, FDA Puts More Restrictions on ImodiumMonkey Deaths Prompt FDA Probe, New Controls on Animal ResearchCDC: Many U.S. Adults Have Never Been Tested for HIVHealth Tip: Performing CPRPublic Health Workforce to See Large TurnoverSevere Flu Season, Tough Winter a Double Whammy for Blood Banks24-Hour Primary Care Clinics Would Improve Continuity of CareBrochure Can Improve Opioid Disposal Rates After SurgeryReminder, Recall Systems Improve Immunization UptakeSatisfaction Higher in Providers Who E-Mail PatientsRestaurant Bans Have Big Impact on Smoking RatesReduce Legal Blood-Alcohol Limit to Cut Drunk Driving Deaths: ReportFrom Birth On, One Sex Is HardierIs Obesity Slowing Gains in U.S. Life Spans?Health Tip: Perform Regular Skin ChecksFewer Hospitals Closed After Obamacare Expanded MedicaidProgress in Fighting Antibiotic Resistance Shown in CDC MapUSPSTF Questions Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis ScreeningHIV Screening Most Optimal at 25 Years of Age If No Risk FactorsBlood Banks Need January DonorsChild Death Rate Higher in U.S. Than Other Wealthy NationsPoor Credit Scores, Poor HealthClean Air Act May Be Saving More Lives Than ThoughtHealth Tip: Make Your Doctor's Appointment SuccessfulOb-Gyns Encouraged to Consider Social Determinants of HealthU.S. Life Expectancy Drops as Opioid Deaths SurgeFDA Gets Tough With Homeopathic MedicinesState Rules Affect Survival of Immigrants With Kidney FailureTougher State Laws Curb Vaccine Refusers
Questions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Unsafe Water Found in Faucets Across the U.S.

HealthDay News
by By Serena GordonHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Feb 12th 2018

new article illustration

MONDAY, Feb. 12, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Flint, Mich., isn't the only American city where the water hasn't been safe to drink, new research suggests.

Almost 8 percent of community water systems are plagued by health-based violations of water quality standards in any given year, the study found. That meant up to a quarter of all Americans were affected.

"Generally, the U.S. has high-quality water," said study author Maura Allaire. "But health-related violations do extend well beyond Flint. When I dug into the data, I saw about 21 million people were receiving water from systems that didn't meet standards in 2015.

"In terms of hot spots in the country, rural communities and rural low-income communities in Oklahoma and Texas are really struggling," said Allaire, an assistant professor of urban planning and public policy at the University of California, Irvine.

"They lack the technical capacity of larger systems, and have small customer bases, which means they can't afford the latest and greatest technologies. And they often have only a part-time technician monitoring their water systems," she explained.

In total, violations affected between 9 million and 45 million people in the United States during each year the researchers studied. That's between 4 percent and 28 percent of the U.S. population.

So what exactly is in the water?

"In terms of what's being reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, the vast majority are microbial concerns," Allaire said.

Coliform bacteria, found in the feces of humans and animals, were the germs most often found. Generally, coliform bacteria don't cause illness. But they often indicate the presence of other contaminants that may cause illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other contaminants found in water systems included viruses and the parasites cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia, the study reported.

Waterborne microbial illnesses often cause abdominal cramping, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and, if severe enough, dehydration, the CDC says.

Water quality was also tainted by chemical contamination, along with excess arsenic, lead and copper.

Nitrates were also a common contaminant in water systems, the study found. Nitrates can occur naturally, but excess levels of nitrates can occur as a result of contamination from chemical fertilizers, septic systems, animal feedlots, industrial waste or food processing waste, the CDC says.

The study found that areas that purchase their water were less likely to experience contamination, Allaire said.

"It may be that they're able to afford more robust treatment techniques," she said.

Ensuring safe drinking water is likely becoming more difficult in many communities due to aging infrastructure and shrinking budgets, the study noted.

Jennifer Li, the interim senior advisor of public health programs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, agreed.

"A big challenge is the aging or decaying infrastructure of the old water main lines -- usually made of concrete or fired clay. Small fissures in the pipes allow contaminants and biologicals like Legionella into the water system post-treatment and present a public health risk to recipients," Li said.

Li said investing in infrastructure would help improve water safety. She also suggested that there should be more transparency in the water testing and reporting procedures. Depending on the contaminant, water systems have between one and 30 days to let the public know.

Both Li and Allaire said it's important to follow any notifications you receive from your water system, such as a "boil water" notification.

Li also recommended having emergency water supplies on hand. For example, one gallon of water per person and pet, per day, as well as a camping filter for water to remove contaminants.

Allaire said that merging and consolidating water systems might help ensure quality drinking water because a larger system would likely have more resources available.

But, she said, right now each municipality usually has its own system, so consolidating systems might meet resistance because doing so could have political ramifications.

The study included data from nearly 18,000 community water systems. The data spanned 1982 to 2015.

The findings were published Feb. 12 in the journal PNAS.

More information

Learn more about drinking water safety from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.